December 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

The Reading List

I read all year long--books, newspapers, magazines, online articles. The books are sometimes work-related--those I'm reviewing for FB&C--but, more often than not, I read books for pleasure, and I average one per week. (Right now I'm reading Dana Spiotta's Eat the Document. It's fantastic.) I'm lucky in that publishers often send me copies of books to review that are books I might have purchased anyway. But that's not always the case, and so I keep a running list every year of new books that catch my eye but for which I didn't have the time or the expendable cash.
Then, a few years back, my mother-in-law began this wonderful tradition: I cull my list down to ten or twelve and hand it over. It makes holiday shopping easy on her, and it's a dream come true for me: a bag full of reading to last a few months. This year, five of those titles strike me as titles you might like as well, all with bookish/historical tones.

New York Diaries 1609-2009 -- this one was published in December 2011, so it just missed last year's list. It uses a diary format to travel through Manhattan's past, using all kinds of historical documents and collections.

stockholmoctavo-u162.pngThe Stockholm Octavo -- this novel isn't as bookish as its name implies (the octavo is a fortune-telling card) but I was drawn to its vivid jacket and decided that a quirky novel about eighteenth-century Stockholm could be excellent.

Astray -- more fiction, but I've been a fan of Emma Donoghue for at least a decade, and I'll read anything she writes. The fact that these stories are based on historical circumstances--like her Slammerkin or The Sealed Letter--makes it all the better.

Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life -- the life of the wife of Henry Adams. Clover was also a photographer who later committed suicide.

Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture by Dan Mendelsohn -- pulled from The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times Book Review, these critical essays on literature and pop culture won't disappoint.